This time a year ago, Chase Utley was hitting. He was fielding. He was rehabbing. Sure, it was in the minor leagues, but at least it was something; a far cry from this nebulous region that he finds himself in now, where he isn't having any setbacks, but his balky knees aren't really progressing either.
As we near the one-year anniversary of Chase making his first start in 2011, we receive news that, yes, he is taking grounders. It's not on the “Phillies sign Cliff Lee” level of news but considering just what he has meant to the team -- even at 75 percent -- it's reason enough for the team to get excited about the prospects of his return.
Courtesy of CSN Philly's Ruben Frank:
“He’s doing better,” Amaro said before Utley's workout. “I think he’s feeling a little bit better. We’ll see. We’re trying to make sure that when the time is right for him to take ground balls and to put that kind of stress on his legs he’ll do it.”
That certainly is a step in the right direction for Utley, as it's one of the last hurdles for him to clear before he can start rehabbing in earnest. I'm no doctor, but it seems that the stress brought on by fielding -- especially the lateral movement -- is what troubles Utley the most.
And over the past few weeks, Utley has been in the cages taking swings (that's really never been the problem), while also running on the field, so it appears that there haven't been any real setbacks, despite the slow progression on his part.
But given what he know about his injury, and how he slowed down the stretch last season, it makes a bit of sense for the Phillies to handle him with kid gloves. They should make sure that he is healthy and contributing in the final months of the season when the team is hopefully making a playoff push.
Aside from that, I'm not sure of what else to take from this news. It's positive, for sure, but it doesn't get him on the field before the end of June, at the earliest. But with the way this team has been playing -- and with Freddy Galvis' recent surge -- that might not be the worst thing in the world.